How can we make writing more stimulating for our students. Summary of #ELTChat 19/10/2011



On Wednesday evening October 19th 2011, many ELT enthusiasts joined #eltchat to share ideas, connect and engage in this topic about how to motivate writing activities in class.

Our moderators were Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C), Barbara Sakamoto (@barbsaka) and Bernadette Wall (@rliberni) . These three lovely ladies led all the #eltchat  participant in a very engaging and motivating discussion. And here are the results



from #eltpics by @yearinthelifeof


Writing is one of the most rewarding yet one of the most challenging skills for English Language learners. Why so? Because writing is an accuracy focused activity as well as an act of communication where one can practice their skills of using grammar, vocabulary and also put their ideas together in a coherent fashion.  Through writing, students can express themselves

Writing involves processing, editing, and while writing, there is more time available to the students for thinking and accessing familiar language.

Classroom Writing vs Homework Writing – The Process vs Product Divide

Many teachers still think of students writing in class as time consuming and a waste of valuable classroom time, so many assign writing as a homework activity.

Others connect writing to speaking, suggesting that a written piece consolidates language used in class.

And yet, writing which is properly integrated with other classroom activities can become great way of consolidating language acquired in class. Several participants agreed with this idea, as students’ ‘ownership’ of their written work, empowers and motivates (@cerirhiannon).

Students can be motivated to write when topics are interesting and relevant to them and when teachers allow them some choice: this choice may be a choice of a topic or of how to present their topic or regarding how much they should write.

Writing can be a nice way to engage and motivate our shyer and quieter students.

That is why many think that it’s better to give the writing task in the classroom rather than giving it for homework, as when writing is done in class, teachers can guide their students through the whole process. The teacher will be able to facilitate and fix so students can actually gain many things aside from the practice of writing itself.

What topics can we use in the classroom to encourage students to write?




Image from


The simplest and easiest way is to ask them to write about themselves; later you can transfer to writing about things around them. When they feel comfortable enough and you want them to progress, free writing can be practiced. But most participants also believed that guided topics that offered them opportunities to use their imagination may be one of the best way to get our students to be more motivated and willing to to write.


So what activities we can do in class to help writing become more fun to do?

Lots of ideas were mentioned for written work both in class and out of class:

  • Collaborative writing, using, Moodle. Best used for writing activities outside the classroom or homework.
  • Continue the writing via @yitzha_sarwono ; Select a topic, then write ‘wh’ questions on board. Teachers will start with the opening of the story e.g “I had a nightmare last night” . Students then continue with one sentence based on the ‘wh’ provided for them. When it’s finished, read it out loud to hear the whole story.
  • Jigsaw writing via @cerirhiannon and @AlexandraKouk ; one begins the story and the next students continue or write up more characters for the story.
  • Re-writing a song via @kukukukuku ; choose a song, ask them to rewrite the lyric to the song based on their idea.
  • Write a biography of a certain things brought in classroom, e.g potatoes via @annehodg
  • Fairy tale dominoes via @Marisa_C ; Prepare a set of pictures, student in turns takes one then continue the story orally. Later on edit and re write it in groups.
  • Imagining what’s behind the door via @lizziepinard ; what’s the door like, what’s behind it etc
  • 5 objects mysteries via @barbsaka ; Choose 5 objects from basket and create mystery story around it.
  • Running dictation via @theteacherjames ; Stick a small papers on the wall. In pairs, one student has to read the text, runs to their partner who will then write it down.
  • Creating a poster with photos of the other group via @annehodg

Assessing and giving feedback

So, after all the fun of putting our mind in the paper, comes the important question : How do we mark and give feedback on writing? Many ideas floated around on the timeline and they were all great and helpful :

  • Peer correction : Blutaking  written works on the classroom; students walk around in pairs, read and then make comments. Teacher then collects the pieces and marks/comments
  • Using Error Correction codes; Students self-correct or peer correct; after the next draft, give more ideas-based feeback
  • Using Microsoft Office Track changes and inserting comments. For online students, this is especially useful
  • Using text highlighters to identify and categorize  problems found in a written piece; students are given the code
  • Using a collaborative onine typing tool such as typewithme which can replay the history of the creation of the written piece and show edits and corrections.
  • Focus on the content too; the students’ ideas are also important, not just their lexical and grammatical choices .
  • When marking in class together, identify the mistakes, prompting them, eliciting them then replace with the better version.

One thing for sure though, don’t be too stiff! Writing is about expressing themselves so please don’t burden or discourage them with too many expectations on grammar points, though accuracy is still very important.

Some memorable tweets :

@mmgridberg: Writing is one of the most rewarding and yet on of the most challenging areas on ELT for me #eltchat

@annehodg : Writing’s not just about accuracy, also about communicating complex thought clearly.
Also channel for shy people #eltchat

@cherrymp: very true. Writing is quite demanding and some students just shirk off from it cause of that #eltchat

@yitzha_sarwono : I’ve always assigned writing after every speaking activity , so what we’ve talked about will be written down #eltchat

@mmgrinberg: If writing is done at home, there always should be some kind of feedback – at least on content #eltchat

@Marisa_C :What we write becomes a record, so accuracy becomes important #eltchat

@NikkiFortova : I try to focus on the processes involved in the writing task during the lesson, and ask them to do the writing for homework #eltchat

@rliberni  Group writing activities are good as they bring in other skills too #eltchat

@annehodg: Write in class: Spontaneous reaction, on the spot summary, dictation extension; four accuracy dictogloss #eltchat

@gknightbkk  : For adult learners genre is the key. I create a corpus in specific genres for identifying recurring lexis, grammar and organization #eltchat

@theteacherjames : Writing offers students an opportunity to reflect and self correct during the process of creating , much harder than speaking. #eltchat

@campbellhowes: Given that we communicate so much online, I’d say the goal of teaching writing is to enable communication/foster relationship #elt

@gsussex:      #ELTchat writing on paper or computer/iPad? Weak spellers enjoy check facility & those with poor handwriting can feel prouder

@Marisa_C: There are many types of writing – some involve imitating, some merely manipulating,  some generating original content #ELTchat chat

@tefldust: storystarters #eltchat (a spinning wheel gives you your topic!)

@theteacherjames : Essentially, my students can write anything they want (reviews, stories, essays ) as long as it’s something that interest them. Engangement #eltchat

@kukukukuku : write raps/songs – use garage band or karaoke versions of pop songs. Help them to focus on rhyme, rhythm, being succinct #eltchat

@barbsaka: I use dictation to reinforce control strategy. I’ll repeat, slow, spell, but only if interrupted and asked J #eltchat

@Marisa_C: Correcting during class writing is a process of facilitating and fixing – lots of individualized teaching during that time #eltchat

@cunningcanis  : I think the main ones are that writing should and can be done in the classroom and also made fun, interesting and effective #eltchat

@Lizziepinard : We need to to empower the students, they ‘Can’ write, even though often, they don’t believe #eltchat

@rliberni  : Everyone now writes much more than they used too; IM, text, blog, emails, comments etc. Social media is FULL of writing #eltchat

@MaryAnnReilly: What I love about writing and social media is how it reminds us that language evolves #elchat

@kukukukuku : If you hate doing writing with your students, they will hate it too. You need passion, even if it’s forced! #eltchat

 And here are some useful links about writing


So I think we are all agreed that teaching writing is quite demanding. One thing we need to know that not everyone is born a writer, but it’s not a skill that we cannot teach them. Looking and reading at #eltchat script , I suddenly realize what a great PLN I have over here and how lucky I am to be able to share and interact with these lovely people every Wednesday. Thanks to our moderators Marisa Constatinides, Bernadette Wall and Barbara Sakamoto for the wonderful moderation and such an engaging hour. Let me end this with a quotation that will sum up all we’ve talked about by our wonderful Marisa constantinides

“Ideally if you have been doing class writing and supported it throughout, the end product should be the best student can do, so no feedback but praise” by @Marisa_C








The English Raven Halloween lesson materials design challenge!

My attempt in answering a challenge! 


Jason Renshaw (@englishraven / ) challenged us to create a lesson plan for Halloween . As we all know,Halloween isn’t really a big deal here in Indonesia.But I gotta admit that in I have expercienced celebrating it in the schools that I work, though it’s only limited to wearing the costumes and making the art related to the occasion.

So, here is my take on the challenge. 

Dear Jason, I hope this is good enough for you. I had fun doing it though ^_^

Rising above our own sad music

My take on how to handle your class when you’re heart is broken.


Last Monday I got a complaint from one of the parents regarding the performance of one of the teachers. It seemed she wasn’t as lively as she supposed to be, teaching in the Toddlers’ class. I can understand the complaint but I was also aware that the reason my teacher was like that because she was so worried. Her husband was having a surgery in the hospital and she couldn’t be there by his side because she had to teach, for we were lacking of teachers.

Humans are made of emotions. All are pure and worth dealing with. But when you’re a teacher, there are rules that will keep you from looking over reacted on things. Anger and sadness are emotions that are banned to be seen by our students.

But as human, we do have to experience that as a person and deal with that stage of life. How would we help our students during their down moment when we never have one on our own? Our experiences will not only be the best teacher for us but also to our students when it’s time for them to face it. When our students can see that we can handle all the sorrows that life has to offer, they will too become motivated on dealing with theirs in positive ways.

I’ve experienced several times when I have to go to the classroom, forcing smiles when I felt like I just want to curl up in bed crying and feeling sorry for myself. When my dear Papa was in coma due to his stroke attack, when my lovely kitten was killed in a hit and run accident (well, I always cried when losing a pet, but this one was special case because she was found on the side of the street, bleeding to death) and of course when I lost my Love. Those are so far the toughest I had to experience as a teacher and a woman.

Just when those happened to me then I realize that one of our toughest job as a teacher is to be an all time cheer leader, for our mood can surely affect the class. I remember when I was in junior high and our teacher was in a very sad mood (I never know why until now actually), the room was suddenly filled with dark cloud. Nobody dared to chat around or made a joke. All were grey and gloomy for we were all sucked down to her emotion. The lesson was suddenly hard for us to understand and the clock seemed to stay still. Nobody wanted to be in that room with the temperature as cold as the Antarctica of course!

So, are we as Teachers have to live with a lie? Pretending to be this always so cheery personality? Numbing ourselves to our pain and kill the emotions? Should we all be the happy clown in the name of education?

My answer is NO! I think our students, parents and colleagues will have to see that we are human too. Who are equipped with grief, disappointment, and lost feeling . But at the same time, we cannot also carry the negativity in our heart to our class. Majority rules, and as we are the only one feeling the blue, we should be the one handling it. Especially as a teacher, the way the class is going that day will depend on how you can present yourself in the classroom.

So, here are some lovely tips I picked up over the years on how to put the broken heart away for at least during the class sessions:

Good fuel         : What I meant was the food and drink that you consume before going to the class. Healthy breakfast helps! But when you’re down, treat yourself with some guilty pleasures. Chocolate and Coffee usually do me good .The sugar rush helps me to feel better. Oh I know some nutrition expert will hate me for writing this, but like I said; majority rules! The class needs you and for that you have to make the ‘sacrifice’ 😀

Emotion box   : This is what I usually do. It means you leave whatever negative emotion you have for a while in a safe place outside the classroom, so they don’t follow you down the class. What is it? Well, each of us will have to find suitable way for it, a totem to represent our emotion box. Mine is an old wallet given by my mom years ago.


my totem 🙂

When my Papa has one of his Kidneys removed, I placed his cupboard’s key and a photo of all of us together there, and felt better. Since then I do it when I need some getaway, like when he had his stroke, went to a coma and I had to teach full time far from the hospital. I took that wallet, filled it with a small note about how I felt and a prayer. I put it on my desk before I went to the class room as an action saying that I leave all my worries and sadness there for a while and will get back to it once the class is over. It works like a charm every time for me ^_^

Heaven’s hand              : No matter what is your belief, prayers can help you through. So asking the help from the Big Guy above before going to the class will surely put you at ease. A simple mantra like “I am strong” , “ I will have fun today”, “ Bismillah” or my own “aza aza fighting” could also be a nice saying just before opening the door to your class.

Ease your mind             : Meditation is also good for you to do.  Or you could do a simple breathing exercise to make you relax before going to the class. Oh, music definitely helps too, just make sure you listen to the pump up beat rather than a sad song. I recommend “Firework” by Katy Perry for it has a message that will put a smile on your face. Or silly happy songs from Ke$ha or Mika. Don’t worry about the world for a while. Sing it out loud in the bath room before class if you must; just get that Happy mood to emerge inside of you.

Good laugh      : Watching or reading funny stuffs will surely helps, especially if they are your favorite ones. I love reading ‘Garfield’ and ‘Calvin & the hobbes as well as watching ‘The Pinky and the Brain’ , ‘Everybody loves Raymond’, and ‘Friends’ .The feeling that you get after it -plus that chocolate you just had 😉 – will put a smile on the face

Beautiful View              : And I don’t mean the scenery by that. Go to your classroom. Look at your students’ beaming eyes. I love to gaze at my students and then realize that I have the greatest job in the world! To lead them to be whatever they want to be in their life. Talk and joke with the Class’ clown will help a lot too! And if you’re teaching Kindergarten like I do, getting a hug from your students while they say ‘I love you miss’ has never failed to put me in the mood of playing around with them! I tend to become even sillier and goofier in the playground when I am in gloomy mood for their laugh is the best analgesic ever to me!





I don’t’ feel like I am an expert on how to temporarily be the light of the class when you don’t feel like one. I don’t have any psychiatric experience or hold a degree for that cause. But I do know that our students need us, so the least we can do is put on a smile when we’re in class. You don’t have to fake your smiles and act lively. If you feel blue, you don’t have to pretend but you owe it to them too to at least look ‘civil’ in the classroom. I think our students can sense when we are not in the mood and will give us a break, so it should not hurt us to try to at least smile sincerely to them right? Beside to my understanding and experiences, us teachers love being in class! Our students have been proven to help us go through anything or at least take our mind out of it for a brief.

But still then, at the end of the day, we need to work things out. Deal with our issues and rise above the matters. Because it is the only way for us to get back to our track and go back at being the most favorite teacher to our students ^_*

If the clouds don’t clear, we shall rise above it!


Aza aza fighting Everybody!